While at a small get together a few days ago, the subject of one of the many conversations I had came around to writing. I was discussing the finer points of Utopian/Dystopian science fiction with a few avid nerds of the genre when one of them asked me a simple question: “Why does the world always have to end or be in danger of ending?” While I gave her a rather simple, three word response followed by a beer-aided deep belly laugh, those three words encapsulated more than a simple child-like fascination with an unknown event. When I replied “because it’s fun!” I meant it from the perspective of a writer who not only wallows in any opportunity to catapult an entire civilization beyond the brink of utter annihilation but also the perspective of a writer who enjoys creating flawed characters and completely destroying every single thing about them. What I did not intetionally mean to reflect was a greater opinion on the current state of human society.
We, as humans, view the apocalyptic and post apocalyptic genre as both a metaphor for the current state of the human condition AND as though we are gazing through a lense of escapism. When I sit at work and creatively think up ways to justify the genocide of millions of infants (and subsequently make an attempt at convincing the “Standards and Censorship People in my mind” that it is perfectly acceptable to do that), I am not intending it as commentary on my work being a complete hell hole that I only really enjoy for the few friends I have there. If that was my sole purpose then I would probably create a scene with a much more personal flare (such as a character going on a mass strangling rampage or something). Rather, I spend my time between calls (and let’s face it, at this point I do it during calls too… when a job becomes too automatic it is normally a sign that you either need a promotion or a new job) concocting stories about the end of the world and the people who shepard the human race to its end. That is more out of an attempt to escape into a world far beyond the mundane with a sense of purpose that goes far beyond the purposes I find I have when I think/write (so asking for money and attempting to eek out more bodywash out of my Axe bottle that has been empty for at least a month… yes I think best at work and in the shower… judge away).
I think that as a culture, we choose to latch onto the more destructive stories simply because it provides all the thrills of said destruction without actually putting us through hell. Even looking at something as “mindless” as watching Jersey Shore proves that the elements of destructive behavior and an attitude that is detrimentally “carefree” lends an escape from our morally inhibited lives. Science fiction is just the more extreme example of that. The stories that captivate us are global and either toe the razor’s edge of the end of everything or completely hop on over to the other side and explore that ultimate armageddon. It is what is marketable. It is something we innately understand on some primal level. It allows us as writers and us as viewers/readers/fans something far more basic than an opportunity to draw a metaphorical connection to our current reality. It allows us to escape into that world and feel the thrills and the adrenaline rush of that experience from the comfort of our couch, movie theater, or bed. For all parties involved, it is fun.